Oct. 22, 2004
“You lose (Cat) Reddick, you lose (Alyssa) Ramsey, you lose (Maggie) Tomecka, you lose (Carmen) Watley and then (Lindsay) Tarpley goes down with an injury and people think UNC isn’t going to score goals,” said FSU head coach Patrick Baker. “They are a different team but they are still North Carolina. They still have Anson (Dorrance) as a coach and they still have a large number of great players. They play great soccer. So few teams this year have even been close to them. We get a chance to play the best team in the country tonight and it is going to take a great effort on our behalf.”
The Tar Heels (14-0-1, 7-0-0) are without consensus national player of the year Tarpley who fractured her right fibula September 24 versus Virginia Tech. Even before the loss of Tarpley, this year’s UNC team was not producing goals like it did last year when the squad went 27-0-0 and won the National Championship. In 2003 UNC scored 113 goals and 56 goals through 15 games. This season the Heels have scored 44 goals in 15 games. Like the Seminoles (12-3-1, 5-2-1) who have been without their top goal scorer Leah Gallegos, UNC is still finding a way to win as they come in to Tallahassee on a 42-game unbeaten streak.
“I am not expecting anything less from them offensively in any aspect despite the loss of Tarpley,” said central defender and All-American candidate Kelly Rowland. “She is a great player but they have a bench full of players that can step in and be dangerous. Any player in that Carolina blue is a threat to score and we will not approach any player on that squad any differently because they aren’t Lindsay Tarpley.”
This is the first meeting between UNC and FSU since the 2003 ACC Championship final where the Tribe led the Heels on two occasions and eventually lost 3-2 on a Reddick PK with less than five minutes to go. The game was the closest ACC Championship game in 15 years and was played just a week after the Tribe dropped another one-goal game to UNC 1-0 in Chapel Hill, NC.
“I think last year’s results help,” said Baker. “We played great against them here two years ago and lost 5-1. We missed chances to be successful. Last year I thought we defended really well but probably didn’t create as much in their half as we would have liked but to lose 1-0 at Fetzer Field says something. There is so much tradition and history there on top of playing a great team. Then to play them a week later in the ACC Championship final and to learn from the previous game and apply it was great to see. We went ahead 1-0 and them went ahead 2-1 and with the game in the balance with 10 minutes left, that is what you want and that’s what we did. Both teams are different this year but for the returning players for us it has to be a boost of confidence that during a spell last year we did play with them. We were unsuccessful but we learned a lot about ourselves and our team and that allowed us to have success in the postseason last year.”
“I think the fact we matched up well with them last year does give us confidence because we have so many of the same players back,” said Camie Bybee. “Carolina is a different team this year but they are still the best team in the game. We will go in respectful of them but hopeful that anything could happen.”
The game between the Tar Heels and Seminoles has become one of the premiere match-ups in the ACC and in the NCAA over the last three seasons. The two teams are the only two ACC squads to play in the College Cup since 1992 and they have met for the ACC crown two of the last three seasons. This will be the sixth meeting between the teams in the last four years, the second most for both schools over that span.
“I think the intimidation factor may be gone when you play a team like Carolina that many times but the level of respect does not drop off,” said Jez Ratliff. “We are very respectful of what they have accomplished any how good of a team they are each and every year.”
Any time you face North Carolina you are facing the team and the program. You are playing a team that has won 18 national championships. You are facing a squad that has lost just 11 regular season games in 21 years and a side that has captured 15 straight ACC titles. When you face UNC you have to defeat the best team in America and history.
“It is always a challenge because they are such a storied program,” said Ratliff. “You aren’t just going up against a great team. You are facing their history as well. We have only won once in 16 meetings with UNC so obviously it will take something special tonight if we have any chance of getting a second win. It is a game you always get pumped up for and it doesn’t take a lot of motivation to get ready for this one.”
According to Baker, one of just 10 coaches to beat UNC in the regular season, the key to beating UNC is defense and goalkeeping. Trying to contain a potent UNC attack that is currently ranked ninth in the nation is a tall task especially when you consider that the Heels have scored 83 goals against FSU in 16 games.
“You have to defend very well and that applies to everyone,” said Baker. “Your goalkeeper has to make every save she is supposed to then come up with two or three other difference-making saves. Carolina has to be a little off and the two areas you have to really work on is being efficient in set pieces and better in the 50/50’s. That is something UNC takes great pride in but the two times we have really played well against them and scored multiple goals we have been very good on set pieces, defended well, held our own in the battle for 50/50 balls and they have been a little off.”
Goalkeeping, set pieces and 50/50 balls were three key factors in FSU keeping both games close in 2004. Senior keeper McKenzie had a breakthrough performance in the 1-0 regular season loss at Fetzer Field and was singled out by UNC head coach Anson Dorrance after the game for her `brilliant performance’. The legendary head coach also was taken back by FSU’s desire to win 50/50 balls in the ACC Championship final.
“The thing that impressed me about Florida State is that they fought as hard as our kids did,” said Dorrance after the 2003 ACC Championship final. “That is something we can usually rely on for separation. I thought they matched us. The 50/50 game was fairly even and that is a credit to Florida State. That is an aspect of the game we usually dominate.”
As far as set pieces go, all five goals in the 3-2 ACC Championship game came off set pieces including two by then-freshman Rowland. With her two goals in a single game last year versus the Heels, Rowland became FSU’s all-time leading goal scorer against North Carolina. Not bad for a defender.
“Last year the goals were the result of a team effort,” said Rowland. “Both goals were the product of tremendous services. Camie (Bybee) and Katie (Beal) put the ball right there for me on both goals. The key with North Carolina is to capitalize on your chances because they are few and far between against that tough defense.”
For FSU to have a chance tonight, McKenzie will need another brilliant performance like she had in 2003. Last season she became the school’s career shutout leader in ACC games and in ACC wins. She has added to both of those totals this year but now she is threatening all the Tribe’s career records. With McKenzie’s shutout win over Miami, the keeper tied the FSU career record for wins (26) and moved one shutout away from taking over the career record in that category as well. She knows she will be tested tonight.
“Anytime you face North Carolina you know you are going to get some action as a goalie because they are an offensive power,” said McKenzie. “Our defense has been playing very well but we will all have to play even better tonight. If we do the things we need to do, and a little bit extra, we will have a chance to stay in the game with them.
“I always like to play UNC because you get so pumped up for them. It is a game versus the best program in our sport. You automatically get up for it and want to play your best. I look forward to this game and it is a game you just want to go out and have fun with.”
Another factor the Tribe is hoping to rely upon is crowd support. The last time North Carolina came to town, a school record 1,582 fans showed up. That record was later broken when the Gators came to town in 2002 but Baker knows his team will need some of the Friday night magic Tallahassee crowds have provided his squad over the last five years.
“I hope there isn’t a seat to be had tonight,” said Baker. “We have drawn well at home and had great crowds for Wake Forest and Virginia but tonight you are talking about two top 10 teams with some of the best young players in the country all at one setting with a lot at stake. Hopefully it will be a phenomenal crowd that will get to witness a great soccer game. We are excited about the opportunity to play North Carolina here. Knowing the character of this team we will be ready to compete tonight.”
Tonight’s match kicks at 7:00 p.m. and it is the final ACC game for the Tribe this season and the second-to-last regular season game. The first 500 fans in attendance tonight will receive 10th Anniversary commemorative mini-pennants and Seminole shakers. There is never an admission charge to regular season games at the Seminole Soccer Complex. If you are unable to attend, exclusive live stats will be provided through Game Tracker at the official website for Florida State athletics, www.seminoles.com.